yeovil at War

Sidney Leonard Mutter

Lost at Sea

 

Sidney Leonard Mutter, known as Leonard or Len, was born in 1889 at Beer, Devon. He was the youngest of the three children of agricultural labourer John Mutter (1840-1891) and Amanda née Horner (1857-1924) - although John Mutter had previously been married to Susan née Cawley (1841-1881) and they had a son and seven daughters.

In the 1891 census John, Amanda and their three children were listed at Cemetery Lane, Beer. However John Mutter died in 1891 and by 1901 Amanda and her children, including Leonard, were listed as paupers in the Axminster Union Workhouse.

By 1911 Leonard was boarding at Marnhull, Dorset, and was working as a journeyman baker. On 29 May 1912, at Marnhull, Leonard married Ethel Lillie Bastable (1889-1957). They were to have a daughter, Lily Ethel (1913-1989). At some time after the birth of their daughter the young family moved to Preston Plucknett and, at the time of his death, the Western Gazette reported Leonard was "of this village.... his wife is residing in Marnhull" - presumably with her parents.

It is not known when or where Lionel enlisted, but he became a driver in the 29th Divisional Ammunition Column of the Royal Field Artillery.

The 29th Divisional Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery, served with 29th Division. The Division was formed in late 1914 from regular units arriving home from the most distant garrisons of Empire, having been replaced by Territorial units. The new division concentrated in the Stratford-Warwick-Leamington-Rugby-Nuneaton area in the first three months of 1915. They were training for France when orders arrived to prepare to depart for Gallipoli. They embarked from Avonmouth between the 16th and 22nd March 1915 sailing via Malta to Alexandria then on to Mudros in April. They landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli on the 25 April 1915 and were involved in heavy fighting.

By the fluid nature of their work, it is not known exactly where the 29th Divisional Ammunition Column saw action. In October 1915 Sidney was aboard the ill-fated troopship, the SS Marquette, en route for Salonika.

On 19 October 1915 the SS Marquette departed from Alexandria, Egypt, destined for Salonika (now Thessalonika) in Greece. The total ship's complement was 741: 95 crew, 6 Egyptians, the No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital (36 nurses, 12 officers and 143 other ranks), and the Ammunition Column of the British 29th Division (10 officers and 439 other ranks - including 26-year old Sidney Leonard Mutter), together with its 491 mules, 50 horses and vehicles. Captain John Bell Findlay was Master.

On leaving Alexandria, the Marquette was accompanied by a French destroyer escort, however the escort left the Marquette on the night of 22 October. At 9.15am on 23 October, the ship was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side and immediately listed to port. It had been torpedoed by the German U-boat 'U35' commanded by Lt-Cdr Waldemar Kophamel, some 56 kilometers south from Salonika Bay. The ship sank with heavy loss of life and from the total complement of 741, 128 troops, 10 nurses and 29 crewmen were killed.

Some on board were killed by the explosion, while others were killed by lifeboats which were inexpertly launched - one, for example, fell onto another which was already in the water. The ship sank within thirteen minutes, with nurses, soldiers and crew still on board. Many survivors died in the water while waiting to be rescued.

Leonard's name is recorded on the Mikra Memorial in the Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Regional unit of Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece and his name is recorded on the Preston Plucknett War Memorial.

 

gallery

 

A postcard dated 1915 showing a map of the Dardanelles Campaign.

 

HT Marquette - torpedoed on 23 October 1915.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate commemorating Leonard Mutter.

 

Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Regional unit of Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece.

The British cemetery at Mikra was opened in April 1917, remaining in use until 1920. The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from a number of burial grounds in the area. Mikra British Cemetery now contains 1,810 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, as well as 147 war graves of other nationalities. Within the cemetery will be found the Mikra Memorial, commemorating almost 500 nurses, officers and men of the Commonwealth forces who died when troop transports and hospital ships were lost in the Mediterranean, and who have no grave but the sea. They are commemorated here because others who went down in the same vessels were washed ashore and identified, and are now buried at Thessaloniki.